Once again, the arrival of the first youth conference of the summer has surprised me with its power to lift our staff, our campus, and community into higher gear – in activity and in spirit. The sight of youth groups walking our streets with laughter, the sound of voices singing in unison in Anderson Auditorium, and the energy of their presence sends a charge through me and I hope it does you, too.
For me, the charge was amplified by an exchange I had on Sunday morning with our preacher. Just as the service was about to begin, he relayed to me that his journey into his current ministry, which calls him to Ukraine and to work with displaced families, had come right through Anderson Auditorium and our conferences years ago. I’ve often heard that sentiment expressed over the last nine summers, but the words struck me with a particular impact this time. It’s a reminder that our youth are not just here to be a part of us and to hear our story. We are also greeting them, hearing them, joining them, and creating and shaping a new story together.
Years ago, I shared a quote in this space from Vincent J. Donovan, who said in relation to working with youth, “Do not try to call them back to where they were, and do not try to call them to where you are…You must have the courage to go with them to a place that neither you nor they have ever been before.”
I think that advice applies not just to our youth in conferences but to our youth across the valley. This summer, while we enjoy and appreciate the youth among us and the ways we enjoy Montreat together, let’s be mindful that we are moving forward with them and shaping stories that will be told in generations to come. Let’s make those stories meaningful ones.
Notable: While we are aiming for a summer season that imagines the effects of the pandemic in the rear-view mirror, not all is as it used to be, as a staffing shortage is having an impact on our ability to provide some services. The pool, for example, has yet to open to the public due to a shortage of lifeguards. We ask for your patience and understanding as we work through these challenges.
Also notable: Speaking of shortages, on Monday, the first full day of conference season, 209 scoops of ice cream were purchased at The Huckleberry, leaving staff somewhat concerned about supplies while awaiting a Wednesday resupply…and delighted that so many want to come to the Huck!
Lodge Update: Finally, I want to share another word in the wake of a Buncombe County Superior Court’s ruling that our permit for a new lodge must be “set aside.” The decision effectively reverses the Town of Montreat’s decision (through the Board of Adjustment) in the spring of 2022. To date we have only been informed of the decision and will await the Court’s formal order before commenting more specifically.
That hasn’t stopped people from asking me broader questions (and, frankly, I don’t blame you). What does the judge’s ruling mean for the conference center’s future work with the Town of Montreat? What does it mean for other institutions in the valley? What does it mean for the future of the conference center? Friends, it may take five, ten, or even 25 years to answer those questions credibly. For now, our board will await the judge’s formal order and consider our mission to serve the church in that new context. We will examine all options, trust in God’s guidance, and do our collective best to discern the wisest course ahead. You can count on it.
President, Montreat Conference Center